Thursday, December 27, 2012


Regardless of how much i researched and thought I was prepared before I left for Paris - I still forgot to do a bunch of things I should have done in the last few months:
1. Pay my remittance for tax witholding
2. Change my address of my bank accounts to Paris
3. Set up automatic banking for my property tax (completely missed the deadline)

Things on the government side that should have happened but did not:
1. driver's license never showed up
2. NR6 Approval for 2013

Things I still need to do:
1. Change my address for all the banks, close some accounts
2. Call about NR6
3. Figure out my Driver license situation
4. Submit NR4 and NR4 summary
5. Change my address for property tax

Things I need to do later:
1. File for my T-1159 when my tax info are around
2. continue to submit my remittance.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Formation Civique Experience

Last month I was at the L'OFII Convocation and they booked my "Formation Civique" or the French Civics Training. After getting my date and location, I made a little note in my Outlook calendar to remind me of my appointment with the location being "20eme arr." and then forgot about it. So at 7pm, the night before my training, i'm on the RER on the way home and i see the reminder on my phone. The first thing that came to my mind was, "crap, i have so much work to do tomorrow!" and then continued my merry way home. By the time i got home, opened the outlook appointment and saw that i didn't write down the address, I realized all my paperwork from l'offi was at work....i had no idea what i needed to bring with me nor where the place is. I tried googling for the information, but nowhere on the websites gave me anything. No address, no what you need to bring, nothing. This meant that I had to travel an hour into the office at 7am past the west end of paris, grab the stuff, and travel to the very very eastern tip of paris. I was miserable. Later, after some investigating, I found out that these types of training are ran in various community centres that are available for booking and not in any set locations so nothing is online.

After I got the stack of paperwork I was running behind on time. I didn't get on the train until almost 8:30am and I saw on the appointment papers that I just needed to bring  a piece of ID and that was it and that I was supposed to arrive at 8:45am. There was no way I would have made it on time and I was a bit concerned that they were not going to let me in on the training and reschedule it for another day despite my efforts of waking at 6am to do this. Nevertheless, when I got there at this community centre at 9:15, the class was nowhere near to getting started, she hasn't taken the attendance nor could she even get the projector started (no power or something). It was a rather informal classroom where you have a trainer at the front with a projector and a laptop running Windows XP. Every time the slide changed, you'd be watching it in slow motion. We got started at around 9:30am: she passed out three pieces of paper for us to sign our name next to the attendance sheet while she came around to collect our appointment form and our ID.

The lessons began with the history of french, starting from the roman period that goes all the way to present and then there was french values and french laws, etc. Although the slides were in bullet points, the woman loved to talk. She did not skimp on any point at all and went deep into every bullet point. It didn't help that the smart alec next to me who thought he didnt need to be there kept interrupting the class with stupid comments or show-offy questions. The training was supposed to have ended at 5pm but because she loved talking, there were stupid interruptions, and we had really really really long breaks, the training went 30 minutes past the mark. We had a break at around 10:30am, and coffee, tea, and water were brought into the room. The break was almost 30 minutes. Lunch was even worse. She gave us 1h30m but she didn't start the class again until 1:45pm and then the same thing happened at 3:30pm when she gave us a break that lasted until almost 4pm (at this point she still had more than 20 slides left). The lady was so slow that i felt like having to sit through her class is the real training, not her content. By 4:45pm, when she realized how late she was, she would click on her computer really fast, so all the bullet points for each slide would appear all at once, which made it seem like she was trying to hurry, but then she would still go through each bullet point for 10 minutes, so her fast clicking really saved us 1 second for each slide.

Since everything was in French, I had a bit of trouble keeping my focus and i literally realized what being bored to tears was. By 3pm, both my phones completely died and i kept yawning and tearing and the girl next to me thought i was crying. Lunch made me realize that if anyone ever had to depend on the government for providing meals, this would be the type of food one would be eating. A tiny portion of food that is ethnic and meant for you to be healthy, but they'll stuff you with starch. It was some sort of tiny portion of curry chicken with a bit of carrot on the side. We were filed into a cafeteria and these boxes were waiting for us. The food didnt taste bad, but there were so much rice and very little chicken. I ate the little chicken that was in there in 2 minutes, grabbed the apple, and went wandering around the area looking for more food to eat. On my tray I still had a heap load of rice left, carrots I ended up having another meal at an Asian Traiteur (fast food). By the time I came back at 1:15, the class room was still locked and the trainer was still having her lunch (she didnt stay in the caf to eat the crappy food).

At the end of the day, while she was handing out the certificates, I found out that they had this course translated in six different languages and I don't know why I had the French version - although i don't remember them asking me what language i wanted, i wouldn't be surprised that it was probably me being stupid and picked the french version because i thought that it would be good to immerse myself with the language.

At any rate, the course was done and I got my last of the four certificate. Hopefully I'll remind myself in time to renew my Visa for next year.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Foodie" Rant

I think I will start out this entry, before I even put down any content, by apologizing. Generally when I begin a blog post, I don't actually plan out what I'm going to write. I have very specific stories I want to tell, but I never know how i'm going to tell it and i just write. It's the same for this post, but i'm still going to apologize, because I have a feeling whatever that comes out hereafter may sound haughty. So I apologize if I sound like a snob or have offended you.

The other night, while we were sitting at Figlmuller, a famous schnitzel restaurant in Vienna, I started to talk about the type of food I want to try in Vienna. Out of the left field, Caleb asked me why I hated the word "foodie."  I have mentioned to him here and there about how I don't want to be called a foodie when the word is being used on me, but latest event in which the word came up was not that long ago. About a week before we headed to Vienna, he and I were at a casual Yelp event in Paris. I met this pretty cool girl from California and we started chatting about living in Paris. And then we started to talk about restaurants and food in Paris, and she told me about the various places she likes. That got me pretty excited, which prompted her to ask me, "are you a foodie too?" I played it off casually and joked, "I don't like to use the word foodie, but I do like eating a little too much." Somehow she caught on to that, and consciously avoided using the word throughout the conversation.

"Why do you hate that word?" Caleb asked me, "You are clearly a definitive foodie."
I cringed. Hard. And then I gave him the two definitions of foodie for me and how I fall into neither of the categories. Now, there are many various definitions that are out there if you google the definition of the word foodie, but the following are the two that i subscribe to. The first being what I called the denotation of foodie (the definitive meaning of the word), the second being what I call the connotation of foodie (what the word means to the mass public).

Definition one and how I dispel my association:
The first definition is its original definition, as stated in Wiki (,
"The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook. [...] Foodies are a distinct hobbyist group. Typical foodie interests and activities include the food industrywineries and wine tasting, breweries and beer sampling, food science, following restaurant openings and closings and occasionally re-openings, food distribution, food fadshealth and nutrition, cooking classes, culinary tourism, and restaurant management."
According to this definition, a true foodie is someone who enjoys food a lot so they study it, they learn to cook it, and they try restaurant that make good food. They try to figure out all science that surround food. That's not me at all. Yes I like cooking and yes I do sometimes read about food, restaurants, and cooking, and I like trying new things. I even  fall asleep reading menus because I like planning what I want to eat the next day or next time I'm craving a certain type of food. But I am not a connoisseur at anything, not even coffee, a topic in which I am quite interested. But I don't study anything like it's science and there's no bible for me on what good food is. I would never turn my nose up at something or tell someone they're doing something wrong when it comes to food, e.g., "oh, you should only drink your coffee black" or "you shouldn't eat at this restaurant because the chef uses Vietnamese basil instead of Italian basil."

For me, eating is personal. 

It's what I like and why and it's what you like and why. My opinion of a restaurant does not supersede another person's opinion of the same restaurant. I don't keep a food blog and I've never been to a culinary class (although i'd like to one day). I like flavour and I like spice. IMO, anything with a dash of garlic tastes better - in fact, the more the garlic and chili the happier I am (a big faux-pas in culinary etiquette). I don't really like lobster not because it's a poor man's dish but because i find it rubbery and I like yam leaves not because it's considered a poor man's dish and I need to be different, but because i like the flavour. If I don't like something, it's because it doesn't suit my personal palate, if i like something, it's because it does suit my personal palate. I will never like or dislike something because everyone else likes it or dislike it. I'm not too cool for popular dishes, nor am I going to like something because it's the current fad. In fact, most of the time, eating at a Fine Dining restaurant is like playing piano to a cow (a Chinese expression): I simply don't get it. I have no nose for refined flavour or subtle nuance of tastes. Most of the fine dining restaurants I've been to don't compare to anything from the street  (which I LOVE). In fact, I have an unhealthy obsession with street food, but that's probably not something that I'm going to get into today. So by this definition, I am not a foodie. I dont not analyze my food and try to figure out the science behind a great restaurant or a great dish and I do not go around telling people what I think about food unless the topic comes up naturally and it's a part of being in the conversation.

Definition 2 and how I dispel my association
This brings me to the second definition I provided for Caleb, the connotation of the word foodie, as verified in Merriam-Webster: "a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads." 

The thing is, I've met quite a number of people who call themselves "a self-proclaimed foodie." They posts pictures of food, calls trying new restaurants "food adventures", are always looking forward to trying out the latest restaurant in the scene, follow celebrity chefs because it's the untapped niche of cool, and/or posting every dish they cook or eaten at that new hip restaurant on Facebook into a "Food Album" just to show people how much they love food because that's the cool thing to love nowadays.

Look, the reality is, I do like food a lot and I spend a large amount of time reading about food and where to eat them (who doesn't like eating?!). I like cooking. I like trying new food, especially in different parts of the world, and I do want to try that restaurant everyone is raving about. But I don't do any of the things above because I want to be cool but because I derive pleasure from eating food I like and I want to know what in this world gives me pleasure so I can keep obtaining it. It's really quite simple. So, no. By this definition, I am also not a foodie. I do not have "Food adventures" - I don't like raw food, and I won't try things that I think are weird or disgusting. I like intestines, but I won't try deep fried insects. I'm only starting to know some celebrity chefs only because people around me talk about it, and I do not have a food album on facebook, or do i get food-gasms, whatever that means.

My disposition with and on Yelp
A lot of people know now that I am an avid Yelper, a site that allows you to review businesses, especially restaurants) although I don't really like to advertise that fact, which begs the question, "You claim that your opinion on a restaurant is not better than another person's, and you claim that you don't have food albums, but then why do you write so many reviews and posts so many picture for your reviews? Do you not advertise it because you'll sound like a hypocrite?" The short answer to the latter question is no, but I cannot expound on it without answering the first.

Here are the reasons why I like writing Yelp reviews:

  • It's like a journal - I document all the places I've been to and all the food I've eaten, what I like and what I don't like, and I can often go back into it and remind myself of the day I ate at a specific restaurant in a specific city.
  • I like writing and I like expressing myself. I don't think my opinions really matter, and I don't think anyone actually cares or should care about what I think, but I like doing it, and Yelp is the perfect medium.
My absolute favourite thing about Yelp is the sheer fact that each restaurant's rating is aggregated. On Yelp, my personal opinion matters and it doesn't matter.  I do not have to rate a restaurant 5 stars because they've done everything right and I think people will love it, even if I don't and vice versa. I can rate the restaurant on my personal preference and I can explain why. Yelp will take my opinion, mixes it up with everyone else's and form an average score. There can be hundreds of written reviews for a single restaurant and no one has to read mine. And if someone does read a review of mine, and find it helpful, they can just vote it up by electing it as useful. If they really enjoy reading my reviews in general, they can read all my reviews on my personal page and then subscribe to me by following me. The truth is, I don't even write very good reviews on the site. I write them with the understanding that i'll be the only one reading them. They're generally written quite quickly, unedited and full of grammatical mistakes, documenting what I think is interesting to me, because it's my freaking journal and it will just get submerged into everyone else's. This is also why I don't like advertising about my Yelp account - because my reviews are not written for you to enjoy. Just because I gave this restaurant a five star, does not mean you should try it. I am not an expert food critic and I have no ambition to be one. You could take my layman's opinion into consideration, but you should also go read more reviews on the restaurant and not just mine to get a better idea, like what I do when I research on what I'd like to eat next.

My philosophy on eating, travelling, and writing
Labels are stupid. You know it and I know it. So the label of a foodie need not to exist to begin with, but I can't control the fact that there are labels out there. I probably at times label myself various things, because I can be stupid (who isn't sometimes, or all the time?) But the label of foodie just doesn't jive with me and what I believe in.

Yesterday, I noticed that Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations is on Netflix, so I started watching the episodes of the places I've been to. I have no prior knowledge of this guy or what the show is about, but the more I watch it, the more I am enjoying his philosophy. He travels to various cities, finds a couple of locals to take him around, and tries whatever the locals tell him to try (not always just food!). Ever since I started to travel, I have started realize that you can never really fully know a city, no matter how long you visit, because everyone's perception of that city is always going to be different. There's always the tourist view of a city, which is sadly a similar experience in every city. And if you want to get to know the city from a local's perspective, then you may get a few perspective, but there is no one local perspective. As he says in his show on Vancouver, "it's not what you know about a place, it's who you know" and who you know will define what the place is for you.

If I wasn't so lazy, I'd be writing blog entries on my travels so i can record my findings and my thoughts. But I am lazy, so my reviews of restaurants, local or international, is, in some way, serves as an attempt to capture what defines that city for me. These are the things I ate, here is what i like, here is what i dont like, here is what i learned.

To me, food is simply just food; eating is neither a science or a self-expression, it's an innate pleasure. I enjoy the context that surrounds it, including the cultural connotations, when it exists or is in my face, but I don't go looking for the cultural connotations. There's no doubt that food gives insight to a culture, and it's often a by-product for me when I want to try local food while I travel and thus i record it in my reviews. I like food, but I am not a foodie, just like I like travelling, but i am not a traveller. I also like writing, but I am not by any means a writer.  At the end of the day, I'm just another person who likes eating, writing, and seeing world to the best of my abilities. There are a ton of personal blogs out there based on eating and travelling, but i put mine on yelp with the half-hearted attempt at effacing some amount of that self-importance which comes from any form of self-expression.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Little Girl's Vanity

This was shared on my Facebook feed with a picture of Jada Pinkett-Smith and her daughter Willow Smith:
"Jada Pinkett-Smith is aware of the critics that stick up their noses at the way she raises her daughter, Willow. Willow cuts, dyes and styles her hair as she pleases, a fact that bothers many who feel girls shouldn’t have that much control over their appearance at such a young age.

Jada decided to address the criticism in a Facebook post:

“A letter to a friend…This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete. The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”"
- Have a Gay Day

When I was growing up, my mom never let me do anything with my appearance because she said that I should not be so vain. Nevertheless after turning 16, I started to sneak things, like taking the bus to go dye my hair and then couldnt get back home. When I was 17, I got my cartilage pierced. By the time I was 22, I had four piercings on one ear, and one on the other. I didn't get my tattoo until I was 26. I can't tell whether or not I am what one would consider vain. I also cannot tell whether her prevention of my vanity made me less vain than I could have been. But either way, I did appreciate her for keeping my narcissism in check.

Provided that that the post is real, I think Jada Pinkett-Smith makes a valid point, but she doesn't actually address the point of whether or not she thinks it's important to keep her child's vanity in check. Perhaps when you let your child have control over everything, the child must also understand what type of responsibility comes with the control, which is often something a child is incapable of comprehending. I guess these type of things are contextual and the pull and release has to be different for every child. And in the case of Willow Smith, the understanding of vanity is likely more difficult. I mean how can you explain what vanity is to the child who is the product of  a superstar power couple and  who has made the billboards at age 9 (or however old she was)? On the other hand, maybe it's much easier for her to understand what vanity is because of that?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don't Date a Girl Who Reads

Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.

Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi, and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale, or the evenings get long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn’t fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice.

Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn’t, smile all the same.

Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail, frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return, or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.

Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, god damnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.

Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.

Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. I hate you. I really, really, really hate you

-Charles Warnke 

From Thought Catalog

Monday, November 19, 2012

L'OFII Convocation Experience

Not counting my grade 8 graduation, or my high school commencement, I've had two convocations, both of which I have chosen not to attend. Looking back, I'm not sure what I had against convocations, but perhaps the idea of me parading down some aisle to obtain the paper that depicts my "achievement" of finishing courses with no one who really cares being there for me kinda kills the idea. I mean, my parents, never for once, asked me when there is a ceremony for my graduation.

At any rate, I had to attend a convocation today. But this convocation is not a graduation, but merely "a group of people gathered in answer to a summons; assembly." I was summoned by "L'Office d'Immigration et d'Integration," otherwise known as OFII, to:
  • Learn about the values of the French
  • Get my French skills assessed
  • Get my professional skills assessed
  • Obtain a medical examination 
Umm...let me restart by providing you with the pleasure of understanding the complex, yet surprisingly effective system of the French immigration system. 

Around June 2012, our HR office in France applied for a working Visa for me. The process was somewhat uncomplicated, due to the fact that it was an interoffice transfer, as opposed to a new hire. Within a month or so, my Visa was approved and I had to wait for an invitation to the French Consulate in Toronto for the process. There was a little bit of complication there, as I had no idea when the invitation was going to come, or by what method. After a couple of weeks, I received an E-mail, in my Gmail address (to this day, I'm still confused as to how they got that address) asking me to arrive in the consulate office at a specific date and time (about two weeks from the email being sent). I will not burden you with the detail of what I had to go through before and while I was there, but the visit was short and I went back again in a week to pick up my passport with the new Visa on there.

Towards the end of August, I arrived in France. I was told that upon my arrival, I needed to mail out my OFII form with a list of document to the Paris OFII office because I need to validate my Visa within 3 months of my arrival, or else my Visa will be invalidated altogether. All right, so I have until December. Thus, the first month of my arrival was filled with things like getting a bank account, finding a place to live, and figuring out the odds and ends of moving to a country in which the culture and language is completely foreign, oh, and, um *cough*, going to Stockholm for a week.

At around the one month mark after my arrival, right before I was about to go to Singapore for a week and a half, I realized I haven't taken care of the OFII form, and I really should. I start going through the form and researching on the Internet and the form literally told me that I needed to do this AS SOON AS I ARRIVE, because the French administration may take up to months to process your form. Shit. Okay, well, I still have two months, it should be okay, right? Either way, I could only hope for the best. I mail in my form with all the documents required, and then I patiently waited (in Singapore) for the invitation to come.

Two weeks later, I'm back in town - nothing. Another week goes by, nothing. At approximately the four weeks after I sent my info and I was about to head to London for two weeks, I started to look up the information because I'm worried that my invitation is going to come and I'm not even going to be here. Let me tell you this, when it comes to getting information about immigration (as I did this also when I was going to Boston), the internet is the most resourceful place, but it also provides you with the scariest information. Throughout my research, I was told that:

  • You need to send the form by registered mail (even though the form doesnt specify this) - i did not.
  • It can take longer than three months for OFII to organize your convocation - i'm already two months in!
  • The convocation will probably happen the minute you go home for xmas - which happened to a lot of people
  • If i don't have a validation on my passport, they might not let me back in Paris from london!
So I started to freak out and tried to call OFII because I read that someone had called and it made their process go faster.  After several phone calls and getting various people to help me, I was told that they did receive my mail and that they are in the middle of processing it, and sending it by registered mail is not necessary (unless you want a peace of mind). At any rate, I headed to London feeling a little bit better, and during my second week in London, I received the OFII invitation by Gmail (seriously...) for my interview to be in two weeks. HURRAH!

I got back to my apartment in Paris, and I actually also received a physical copy, which was nice. I got all my documents they asked for prepared (the list is long, including purchasing a "stamp" for €349), and arrived at the Paris office 15 minutes before my 8:30am appointment.

L'OFII Paris, 48 Rue de la Roquette
At 8:15, the office was not opened and there was a loooong line outside. The door opened a little after 8:30 and the security guard checked each's person's bag before allowing them to enter the door. The reception at the door checks each person's OFII form and students go directly up, and others gets different colour placards. As a salarié (worker), I got a little blue placard and went up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, a woman is there directing you where to go. Everyone with a placard goes to line up outside a room, while the students go to another section. At the door, there is a woman with a checklist for attendance, who also speaks to you briefly, asking if you speak French. If you do not, they give you a printed powerpoint presentation in your language (English, Simplified Chinese, Arabic, etc.), summarizing the events of the day and send you inside the room. Once everyone gathers in the room (about 15 ppl) they ask you what language you speak, and provide you with an audio guide (those things you get in the museum) for the video on French Value, they're about to play. The video is approximately 30 minutes and then a woman comes in to talk to you about the events of the day. First you will see a social worker who will assess your skills to see if you need to take all the three classes for integration:
  1. French language
  2. Everyday life of France
  3. French Civics

The compulsory class you have to take is the French Civics class - full day, 9-5, with lunch provided. At this Civics class, you are supposed to sign an integration contract. At the meeting with the social worker, ,s/he will provide you with a date for the class. Luckily, I was exempted from having to take the first two classes. 

Once the interview is over (depending on the social advisor, it can take anywhere between 15m to an hour), she will take you to the medical area to get your medical examination. Basically almost everyone lined up outside the OFII door in the morning are waiting in this room. You are eventually called up to get your heigh, weight, and eye-sight measured, go into this closet room to take off your top and then from the other end of the room, a woman tells you to come out, takes a quick x-ray of you, and you sit back in the waiting room until a doctor picks up your x-ray to give you an medical interview.

I was literally the last person in the room to be called by the doctor, who was extremely friendly and made a couple of jokes about my lungs being as pretty as me, and asked me to be his wife...He took my blood pressure, asked me some questions on my vaccination and diseases, and passed me. He personally brought me to the reception that's processing the validation stickers, and the lady asked me for most of the documents on the list and put a silver sticker on my passport - et voila! I'm validated! I left the OFII office about quarter after 1pm - so the process (and remember I was the last one out) took about six hours.
That would be my ribcage...
  • I got to keep the x-ray of my chest (they're checking for TB)
  • Everyone in the office was extremely friendly (surprisingly)
  • There was a raucous while I was waiting of a man who kept saying in a heavy accent "Je ne suis pas francais" and something else (drama!)

I got back into the office at around 3pm (OFII is on the East end of Paris, and my office is on the west!), in time to go to my HR, give her my documents and have a chat with her about the process, and then getting some work done. 

I really liked the experience, which surprised me. It almost feels like they actually want you to succeed in living in France and ensuring that everything will work out for you - who knew?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eating Fruit

I'm currently sporting a Blackberry Curve 9320. Although this phone is brand new out of the box, and was released less than two months ago, compared to my WP7, which was released 1.5 YEARS ago, I feel like I've gone back in time.

I remember 3 years ago (almost on the dot...), when I arrived in Boston and was absolutely ecstatic about owning my first smart phone (in red, no less). It was also a BB Curve.  I remember being on the Green T line that doesn't go underground and downloading music to use as my ringtone (unlimited data) and feeling excited about any app that existed. And I remember when Adam got his Bold, and I was jealous of his being able to change the themes while my Curve crashed when I tried. I remember chatting everyday on email, SMS, BBM and being so happy with my phone. I remember when all my friends came to Boston to see us and we stacked the BlackBerries because we all had one.

I especially remember when Adam asked me to switch to the Windows Phone, and I stood in AT&T, almost unwilling to budge when he said, go play with the first Torch that just came out and see whether or not you want it. I tried turning it on in the store - it took about 15 minutes to switch on. And then lag lag lag. I was defeated and the new touch screen phone was in my hands. Even a few days after I had the WP7, I still went on Craigslist to see if anyone would trade me a Torch for my phone, and I had no bites (those ppl who read my post are probably regretting it).

And now, 1.5 years later, I'm back on the BB and I'm finding it difficult to understand what was wrong with my brain at that time. Here are the following problems:

  • Screen size
  • Difficult to navigate
I really didn't realize how spoiled I have been with my WP7. I've only seen maybe 2 apps ever crash. It never lags, and it has never froze.  Everything is super quick and there's not icon that appears every time the BB is trying to process something. 

Realistically speaking though, had I never had a touch-screen phone that worked so beautifully, I would have been ecstatic about this "upgrade." It has crashed a little less than my old curve, it has more apps, and it hangs a little bit less. 

At the end of the day, a phone is a phone. It does everything that it should do so I should be grateful for it. I am looking forward to December, when I'm back in Canada on my 1.6 year old WP7 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Toute Seule

Today marks the third week since I officially "moved" to Paris.
Funny in the last few weeks it never really felt like I left "home."
In some ways it just felt like another trip out - especially since the three weeks was broken up with a week in Stockholm so it didn't really feel like Paris is now my "home."

This morning, I received an Email from IT telling me my French mobile is "ready."
As soon as I went to pick it up from IT, I called Virgin Mobile to cancel my current month-to-month plan and switched it to the prepaid plan, rendering my old phone to be completely disconnected while I'm out of Canada.

I didn't really pay any attention to my new phone until I was off work, which was nearly 8pm. This was when I realized that data for my new phone was not working. At that moment, I felt a little hollow. I am now completely "disconnected" from Toronto.

And it's not as if my old cell phone was roaming the entire last three weeks (I only allowed data when I was desperate) or that I couldn't connect my old phone to WiFi - but the idea that my main French phone was not a window for me to connect to a life that i was so perfectly comfortable with, made that Canadian life feel officially out of reach.

I'm not entirely sure whether a part of this was due some disagreeable events with my relocation that transpired, or if the phone really was subconsciously symbolic to me, but, tonight, I am feeling homesick.

I feel pretty alone out here in a land where even the natural facility at which I am most apt--language--is foreign to me. Nevertheless, what is, perhaps, the most unfortunate, is that this must not come as a surprise to anyone, not even myself.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Just Another Day

Friday after work, a coworker of mine and I went to hang out in the La Marais area. After work, we got into her car and drove from Suresnes to the 3rd Arr. On our way, we passed by the Seine, Grand Palais, Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomph, and as we drove across the roundabout of the Arc, sitting in traffic while my coworker complained about the density of Paris, it hit me that I now live here. From now on, every single day, I am going to be passing by these grandiose landmarks people read about in books, see in movies, watch on TV, listen to on the radio, as though they are street lamps or parking metres. "In fact" (the phrase the French love to use), I see the Eiffel Tower from my terrace across my bed, glittering at the hour, and the golden dome of Les Invalides glowing in the dark from the terrace outside of the living room.

Today, I decided to go to a Korean grocery store in Little Japan. The closest direct stop for me via the metro is 10 minutes at Opéra. Coming out of the Metro and seeing "the most famous opera house in the world" right in front of my face while knowing that not only was it not my destination and just another building i pass by on my way to go grocery shopping, but also that i will be seeing this monumental infrastructure on a regular basis, is quite a disconcerting feeling. 

And so, to mark this monumental moment, from hereon, when i refer to these landmarks, they shall be written with lower case. Bon matin eiffel tower! Bon soir arc de triomph et champs elysee! Douce nuit, les invalides!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


L: travelling from France to most places in Europe means i dont get a stamp :/
M: haha isnt tat good so u dont have to fill up ur passport so fast
L:  i have a new passport of 24 pages, it's never gonna be filled up <sigh>
M: loll 1st world problem...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Game of Life

I sometimes like playing spider solitaire with multiple suits on my computer while I watch t.v. (I always need to do something else while I watch TV).
The funny thing about Spider Solitaire is that there's always a solution - always a way out, but it just requires that you keep trying without giving up, and are willing to undo your moves until you figure it out. Even when  you are stuck all the way with the last deck out, the game will ask you if you want to continue and retry, or give up. You can click retry, and then press ctrl-z to undo every single move until you get to a place where you think you messed up, even if it's all the way back to the the beginning.

For those who don't approve of using the undo button to make a win, the reality is that the game is not pure strategy - luck is also involved. When there are multiple options for opening up a covered card, you don't know which column to pick. There are ones that will lead you to eventually finish, and then there are ones that will for sure cost your game. But you have no way of knowing until you get to the end.

If you picked the wrong column, should you just gave up because your luck ran out?

I don't. In those cases, I make use of the undo quite liberally. I open up a column and see if the card is useful, if not I click undo and test the next column. Sometimes if the card is useful, I play a few moves to see where it takes me, and then I click undo and test another column. At the end of the day, as long as you are willing to use the undo button, you could never lose.

For the most part, getting stuck in Spider Solitaire is due to lack of focus and concentration. You either didn't plan the moves in the right order, or you failed to see a move and just clicked on a new deck, causing everything to get stuck. Sometimes I seem to get all the easy games and can finish all my games without getting stuck once, sometimes it seems like I get all the hard games and must keep using undo. When the latter happens, I eventually realize that it's not the games, it's me. I'm likely tired and am not seeing the right moves. Sometimes I even get stuck several times and must restart the game from the beginning more than once.  And then sometimes you come to a game where you keep getting stuck and you have no way out, at all. That's when I put the games on hold, walk away for a bit, come back, and then, somehow the game got easier and I can finish it without a problem.

Sometimes I wish there's an undo button for life.

Friday, August 17, 2012


They say that the only person who can consistently make you happy is yourself.
If your happiness is dependent on others, then you may lead a very tough life.
They say the same thing about unhappiness. You can't control what other people do.
You shouldn't let other people drag you down.
You shouldn't be unhappy over things or people you cannot control.

A solitary life one must lead, living this way - no?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I need to figure out the right method to do this or else it'll never be done.
What to pack first? Things I absolutely need in France, or things I absolutely don't need in France? Right now I'm packing clothing I think I need in France...and it's definitely not working out for me...

I need a nap.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Middle-Age Honger

My mom enters my apartment unannounced, without knocking. I ran into my room to put more clothes on, already irritated.
She needed to drop off something at my place and she happened to be downtown working. Her co-worker was carpooling with her so she wanted to check out my apartment.

The whole time while my mom were discussing what she was dropping off and her asking me what else she needed out of her grocery bag, the woman kept up her soliloquy in Cantonese:

"WAH! Apartment so small! (WAH GUM SAI, etc.) The bed doesn't even fit the bedroom! WAH! That is the fridge? So tiny, never seen any this tiny! That sink, you can only fit one pot. No counter space. How is this possible a place so small. How is this liveable? That's it to the place? Nothing else? WAH, I can never live here, how does one live here? I would never be able to live here"

This went on for approximately 5-10 minutes, all the while she's sucking her teeth and shaking her head "tse tse tse" I looked at this women a couple of times with my eyebrows raised but didn't say a word the entire time. My mom pretended I didn't understand cantonese and looked at me horrified and giving me a look like, "don't talk back."

Before she left, she says to me in canton-laden mandarin, "your pantry is very pretty."
I gave her a tight-lipped smile, did not say anything, and closed the door behind them.

I was polite enough, considering I have never met her before.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Canadian Non-Resident with Rental Property

Lately I've been trying to figure out the process of renting my place out before I move to Paris. Ironically, finding a tenant is the easy part - the hardest part is actually trying to figure out how the income tax is going to work. After refusing to call Canadian Revenue and searching online, and then finally giving in and being transferred a billion times, I've finally figured it out (I think).

To begin, all Canadian-income generated by a non-resident is subjected to 25% tax withholding from your gross income. That means if you are receiving $1000/month, you must pay $250 of that to Federal Canada every month, regardless of your expenses. At the end of the year, I don't even know if you can claim it back - I'm not really sure how that works, because this entry is not about that, it's about paying taxes just from your Net Income.

Now, if you are poor like me, the alternative to that would be to pay 25% of your NET income. That is, your gross income, minus things like maintenance fee, utilities (if you're paying), things you've fixed in the home, interest from your mortgage, property tax, etc. If all of that totals to $300/month, you only need to pay 25% of $700, which is $175/month. A tiny bit better. Nevertheless, in order to do this, you have several things you must do before you start collecting rent, as listed below.
  1. Get an Agent: What's an agent you ask? Basically anyone who is a Canadian resident and has a Non-Resident (NR) Tax account number. Their responsibility is as follows:
    • Submit 25% of your net rental income to Canada Revenue every month
    • Fill out an NR4 Slip and NR4 Summary and the end of the year (Dec) and submit it to Canada Revenue

  2. Agent Open a Non-Resident Account: This must be done by your agent as it will be under his/her account. S/he will need to call 1-855-284-5946 with the following information:
    • His/Her name and address
    • His/Her SIN
    • Non-resident's name and the property rental information 
    Once the account has been opened, the agent will receive an NR75, which is a form that specifies all the information with regard to the account. If all the information is correct, the agent does not have to do anything. Along with the NR75 are remittance vouchers - these can be used to pay for the monthly taxes at a financial institution. If you are paying on behalf of the agent online, you will not need those vouchers.

  3. File an NR6: The NR6 is known as the "Undertaking to File an Income Tax Return by a Non-Resident Receiving Rent from Real Property or Receiving a Timber Royalty." This must be done at the beginning of every year (before your first rental income received of the year). This is an optional form that would only be filed if you want to do 25% of your net income instead of gross. On this form you must specify:
    • Your information
    • You rental property information
    • Your Agent information, including the NR account number.
    • A statement that details your gross rental income, and the deductions that lead to the Net income.
    Once you filed the NR6, you must wait for it to get approved.
After steps 1-3 are done, the next thing you must do is ensure that you pay the withholding to the government on-time.

  1. Pay the Government Monthly: You must pay 25% of your net income (the amount as approved by the NR6) to Revenue Canada on a monthly basis (this is the actual withholding), within 15 days after receiving your rental income. If you overpay, you'd be able to claim it back when you file your yearly income tax (which you MUST DO or else they will make you pay the tax from the gross income). There are several ways to pay - but the easiest way is of course electronically. I am going to be using My Payment, which will require that you have either a TD, Scotia, RBC, or BMO bank account. All you will need is:
    • The NR Account Number
    • Your Bank Account Number
    • The amount and the period for which you are paying
At the end of the year what you must do is the following:
  1. Agent Submit NR4 and NR4 Summary: This process is essentially done by your agent before March 31st. The steps are as follows:
    • The agent fills out one NR4 and makes 4 copies of it
      • one copy s/he keeps
      • two copies s/he provides to the non-resident
      • one copy he/she must send to the Canada Revenue Agency along with the NR4 Summary
    • The NR4 Summary is almost exactly like the NR4 except that it tells Canada Revenue how many NR4 slips were sent throughout the year.

  2. File T-1159: You, or the Non-Resident who owns the property, must file a T-1159 "Income Tax Return for Electing under Section 216" before June 30th of the following year. This is the most important(!!!!!!) part of the process. If you do not file this before June 30th, everything you have done is nullified and the government will charge you tax on your GROSS INCOME TAX and ask you for more money. If you file this on time, you might even get some money back because more tax has been withheld (for example, you had to fix your dishwasher, which can be deducted from your income, or your maintenance fee has increased, etc.) than necessary. If you never filed the NR6 then you have two years to file this form. You will need to also submit:
    • A rental statement
    • The NR4(s)

    You can send the package to:
    International Tax Services Office
    Post Office Box 9769, Station T
    Ottawa ON K1G 3Y4
That's all you have to do. For references, you can check the following:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The way Chinese character works is that a single character on its own has a partial meaning and when combined with another character that has its own partial meaning, it creates a phrase that solidifies and strengthen the meaning, sometimes due to repetition of meaning, sometimes through extension of meaning.

For example, the Chinese word "róng" [容] generally means having room, in the context of having the room to accept or allow something to happen.

The character "bao" [包] generally means wrap/include/package. Together, they make the phrase "bao rong" [包容], which would transliterate to include room for acceptance, which would translate to "tolerance." Another phrase that can also be translated to "tolerant" is "qwan rong" [寬容], which comes from the character "qwan" [寬], which means wide, therefore, wide acceptance or lenience. Now if you put the character with the world "sho" [收], meaning collect, you get "sho rong" [收容], which means having the room to take in something. If you put the character with "ren" [忍], meaning endure, you get "rong ren" [容忍], or the room to endure

  • Endure, or "Rong ren" [容忍], is generally used in the context of people and behaviour so that you have room to endure others behaviour.
  • Take in, or "Sho rong"[收容], is generally used in the context of having room to adopt/house another person or pet of some sort (collecting, accepting another physical being).
  • Lenient Tolerate, or "Qwan rong" [寬容], is generally used in the context of the law or social rules, meaning you are lenient towards someone who's done something bad, and that you are forgiving.
  • Acceptance tolerate, or "Bao rong" [包容], is generally used in the context of relationships, meaning that you are accepting of others' flaw.

Without going into all the denotations and connotations of that character (there are definitely more), already we can see that the character "rong" [容] has a positive connotation.  To have the room/air/capacity means you are the bigger person and therefore educated, erudite, and classy.

Asian philosophy dictates that in a happy marriage, husbands and wives must "hu hsiang bao rong" [互相包容] - mutual mutual include acceptance, i.e., be tolerant of each another. A man must have the capacity to be receptive to the flaws of his wife and a woman must have the room to be open-minded about her husband's failings. Of course, from a general standpoint, tolerance is necessary for any relationship. A person who has the capacity to tolerate differences from others, to have an open-mind about the world is someone who can easily love and be loved. After all, no one is perfect. If you cannot tolerate another person because you think they are dumb, or boring, simply beneath you, then you are asking to be treated the same way by someone else who cannot tolerate your flaws.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Phoenix, AZ

I had a rather eventful and fulfilling day today in Phoenix, quite unexpected actually.
My flight was at 8am, which required that I leave my house at 6am, which required that I wake up at around 4:30am, which resulted in me not sleeping at all the night before since I had a lot of things to do before I left. But then I ended up doing so much all day even with the lack of sleep!
  • I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollow Part 2 on the plane, then slept for two hours. 
  • Picked up my car rental (I love Jettas!), drove to my hotel and checked in
  • Changed into a skirt and tank, looked up places to go visit and eat, decided on a schedule, then headed to Wal-Mart.
  • At Wal-Mart, I bought sunscreen, tried on a couple of hats and bought a cute one, wandered around for a little bit and then went on my merry way to the Desert Botanical Garden.
  • I was at the Garden for maybe an hour before I almost died of heat stroke, despite having done everything the website told me to do before I went. I ended up resting in their Welcome centre for a good 20 minutes before I left the place.
  • Drove to Downtown Phoenix and went shopping! First stop was Urban Outfitters and bought a dress and two shirts. Then went to a couple of other stores but didnt buy anything. Bought a drink at Starbucks and went online for a bit.
  • Drove to Nobou restaurant, had a fantastic 3-course meal (restaurant week apparently).
  • Came back to the hotel, showered, wrote some reviews, did some prep for tomorrow and now i'm ready for bed.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I like change--at least I thought I did. In fact, I have a fear of stagnation, which is probably one of the reasons why attaining stability is so tough for me; after all, don't the words "settle down" imply some form of life stagnation? As of late, whenever I see couples get engaged, or get married, or have children, it freaks me out. Normal, I think. But why do I feel the same way when couples break up?

And perhaps this is the psychology of one who craves change - you don't want things around you to change. You want the world to wait for you; to wait for you until you're ready to embrace settling down, so that the world will change for you while you stay put. In the meanwhile, you hope that the world will stay put while you change.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Make-Up Chat

I have been having some trouble applying eye liner recently. Well to be honest, i've always had a bit of trouble with eyeliner. I always stick to pencil liners because I just wasn't brave enough to use anything else. One time, when I was in my early 20s, Andrea had let me try her liquid liner and i completely made a mess of my face so I steered away from anything besides pencil. Plus, pencil is super cheap. I had a similar story with blush when I was in high school actually. I tried using my mom's blush without learning how to apply it properly and I looked like a monkey's butt. I didn't use blush again until I was 25.

I'm digressing. So the pencil liners started giving me problems because they always seem to run and smear after a while. I tried several different liners after that and the latest purchase was the MAC Technakohl eye liner kajal (an impulse purchase at the duty free when I was chatting with a MAC sales about my running eyeliner problem). Anyway, the expensive eyeliner turned out to run anyway, despite being smudge free, water-proof, blah blah blah. It doesn't run as badly, but it runs. I ended up just having to learn to live with it and keep it in check, so my latest problem has nothing to do with this. My latest problem is that I can't get color to stay on my inner top right eye corner. It's so weird: from the inner corner to about half a centimetre, it just won't catch the colour. I tried using all types of pencil liners and none of it works. Yesterday, I went and bought a cream liner and brush and the same thing happens--the colour just disappears in that corner..not in the other eye either. I tried googling this and all I get is about the colour going away after a while, but not as soon as you put it on. It's like I have an eczema patch there that's preventing the colour to stick but I can't see it visibly (and I  don't even  know if eczema patch prevents colour from catching on skin), or i have a patch of oil that doesnt wipe away or something. I decided my last option was a liquid liner, so I headed back to Target today to see their selections. I ended up buying two types of eyeliner pens because I couldn't tell the difference between the two. Plus the cream I bought yesterday, and the eyeliner and shadow stick--I bought a total of four liners in two days. The only thing I am missing now is gel liner to complete the collection...not that I'm collecting.

All the liners i have with me in san antonio right now. I have more at home.

Besides the eyeliners, I also ended up buying mascara, and two lipgloss and a concealer brush (i'm not using it for concealers though, cuz i dont know how). That's a total of 9 items. How much did I end up spending? $17. No that's not a typo.

  • studio line mascara: = $3
  • studio line cream liner = $3
  • studio line angled eyeliner brush = $3
  • studio line eyeliner and shadow stick = $3
  • concealer brush = $1
  • liquid liner = $1
  • pen liner = $1 
  • lipgloss x 2 = $2
Why is it so cheap? E.L.F.! (Eye Lips Face) This budget brand that is sold online and in Target is a hit and miss for people. Some products from the line people love and some people just don't. Not everything is great but many are pretty good. When I first started using make up brushes in Boston, I was buying ELF brushes just to see if i'll use brushes in the long run before i invest in them. They are definitely GREAT beginner brushes for trial. In fact, I think all their products are pretty good if you want to try something new. A ton of reviews on YouTube on their products and I'm not make-up expert so I won't get into the details.

I've tried most of the products I purchased, and I love the liquid liner. I might buy another one ($1!) if I like it enough in the next two days. The great thing about E.L.F. is that their quantity is actually quite small, which suits me perfectly since I don't wear make up that often.

My new E.L.F. haul in the last two days ($17!!)

Dont get me wrong, I dont just buy cheap make-up; I have quite a collection from MAC, Lancôme, urban decay, Laura Mercier, Elizabeth Arden, etc., and other things u can buy at local drug stores like maybeline, cover girl, rimmel...i can go on...its such a waste actually cuz i never finish using them. I should do an entry on my fav products when i get a chance.
Aren't you excited?? Haha!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Modernist in Paris

I had the fortune of watching Midnight in Paris on my way back from Denver and when I say fortune, it's because I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but due to director and casting, I probably would have never have chosen to watch it otherwise. I mean..Owen Wilson...this is probably the first movie he was in that I actually liked. The film isn't deep and not symbolic--generally artsy films such as this never openly denote the theme the way this movie does, which is specifically nostalgia -- specifically the idealization of the past and the conclusion we have the tendency to believe that the past is always better, no matter how great your present is. You can't miss the message; this is in no way an interpretive film--which is quite ironic, considering this film is a tribute to Modernists.

What made me adore this film was actually because it is a tribute to Modernists and I have always loved Modernist works. Reading Modernist literature out loud makes my skin tingle--Eliot and Joyce, being the most obvious favourites. No, I don't read enough Modernist work because they are actually so tiring to read. Last time I read Faulkner, my brain tingled with pleasure, but I fail to remember the plot of the story--all I can remember is how beautifully he is able to string words together to create unimaginable images. And here we have a film where the protagonist gets to go back to Paris in the 1920s to meet with Hemingway, Stein, Eliot and hang out within their social circles. I have loved Dali the moment I was introduced to him via my Modern Western History class, before I even really got a hang of the concept of modernity. And then I went on to do an Independent Study Project on Modern Era in the 1920s--flappers and all--which led me to win the graduating award at the end of the year for this class. I went to the MoMa just so I can see Dali and other surrealists in person. How can I not love this movie? It also helps that all the scenes of Paris are now like second nature to me.

But wait, I might have misled you. You don't need to really be involved in history and literature and art to understand this movie. Perhaps that's one of the reasons the plot is so simple--so everyone can enjoy it. If nothing else, this movie is making me go pick up some Hemingway.

Oh and here's a read-worthy article on words making beautiful sentences. For the record, "Let us go then, you and I" were what caught my breath and made me fall in love with J Alfred Prufrock. Beautiful sentences don't come out of nowhere; it takes practice, it takes time, and a lot of work. You might think it absurd that an author can take months trying to figure out what single verb to use in a sentence of a 500 page novel, but the result is worth this. And we have seen it again and again with our own eyes.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ideological Alignment

This is an interview of Malcom Gladwell given by the liberal arts director at High Point University in North Carolina. He's funny, witty, humble, and incredibly insightful.

When I first encountered the book a couple of years ago, The Tipping Point, I had scoffed at the idea of reading a book that tells you how to be successful. Recently, I was given to read The Outliers and I was extremely impressed with how observant and insightful Malcom Gladwell is on social interactions and their meanings. I then obtained that copy of The Tipping Point that I had refused earlier and rather enjoyed reading it as well.

I don't believe in learning how to become "successful" by reading, whether financially or socially, but what I do believe in is reading avoid dogmatism, and this books do exactly that.

There are several key reasons why I enjoy Malcom Gladwell's analysis on social bearings:
  1. He's an environmentalist like me. Not environmentalist like I'm hugging the trees, but the belief that we are shaped by our environments. It's the age-old nature vs nurture debate where although it's never one or the other, I do agree with him that a large part of our "personality" are shaped by their social environment.
  2. He doesn't preach or push his insights on you. Rather, he presents you with an alternative world view that you can either take or leave. He takes what the general public view is the "norm" and gives you a completely different perspective, and therefore a new concept, of how the world works.
  3. He is a great writer. His writing is clear, logical, and well-presented. A+ on rhetoric. 
You are not supposed to walk away from his book with a new hard-fast rules of how to conduct your life, but rather with possibilities of new ideologies that make the world a better place.

Some highlights on this interview:
  • "I was privileged to be underprivileged" Outsiders are able to see things differently because they are not acclimated and desensitized to a culture and what people think is the way things should be the outsiders don't see it the same way.
  • "If you take care of the little things then it will instill the mindset that makes the big things easier" Steve Jobs is successful because he is a perfectionist with a purpose (not a perfectionist because he's got a disorder). He insists on perfecting the little things around him to fit his overall purpose--he understands that meaning doesn't just come from words or things, but also from all types of seemingly insignificatn actions and inactions around us.
  • "Do not, by the way, listen to your ipod when you work...this is insane! I'm sorry, you can't do work, it just can't be done [...] Here is the two findings: number one is that everyone thinks they're great at multi-tasking; finding number two is, no one is." (I feel validated because I cannot work with music) He also mentioned that if you are doing brain-work and working efficiently, you can't work 8 hours a day.
  • Wealth is not what it's cracked up to be...a cycle of discovery on your way to being wealthy, money is a conduit, and that's why people work hard all their lives who end up just giving it all away. This is the most profound part of the interview and worth watching.
  • "[Leaders] have less in common than what I thought they would. Leadership comes in an astonishing number of forms" The only thing they have in common is energy. Energy can come from passion, from purpose, from drive, or from innate (some people just don't need to sleep as much) but the only thing that help them become leaders is that they never stop.
  • "Your personality is a function of what is going around you" <-- environmentalist
  • "The idea..that Social Power, which is to say, to be distinguished from economic power, which is the power that comes from money...or political power from institutions, or even institutional power, the power comes from your title. There is a different if not equally more important thing, a power called Social power, an informal way which influence is mediated in the world. Social power is not held equally by all of us; it's held by a small number of us with gifts. Some people have a capacity of social interaction that's way out here...they are enormously important in the functioning of this institution...the people with social power get really good stuff done...a high functioning organization depends on these people...people go to work, school because of the environment and it's these people who create functional environments. Understand where social power lies. Well-functioning societies reward those that do that." I'm not quoting his exact words because the section was so long and so in-depth, but this is one of the ideas that he tries to make us see that we don't usually understand, the idea that social interactions can have just as much, if not more, power, than money, institutions, title.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Two years ago, not too long after I moved to Boston, through some connection, Adam asked me if I was interested in going to an Ivy League game involving Harvard vs. Cornell. The tickets were going to be bought through a group of Taiwanese-Americans who are organizing the event to cheer on a Taiwanese-American player named Jeremy Lin, who has the potential to be drafted into the NBA. It was a fun event, and one of the girls made a large sign for JLin and as posers, we took pics with it. I have a whole facebook album of the event and some close-up pics of JLin on court, as well as me being interviewed by Taiwanese media on the JLin phenomenon. Even at that point, the Taiwanese media was on top of it, ready to claim him to be the pride and joy of our "country."

It actually occurred to me at that point, I can't remember whether it was a conversation of some sort or I read this somewhere, that a lot of the people that I went to the game with, and Jeremy Lin himself, would correct you when you call them Taiwanese. "Actually, my parents are Taiwanese. I was born in America." They never directly say that they are NOT Taiwanese, nor do they say that they are Taiwanese-American; rather, they point out simply that it is their parents who are Taiwanese. If you were to ask them what their background is, they'd say "well my parents are born in Taiwan, but I'm born in the U.S." --there is simply no label for them.

First, it's important to point out that they are not wrong. I mean, it's a fact that they are born in the U.S., therefore Americans--there's no dispute about it. The question is what it even means to be Taiwanese-American. When someone says a person is African-American, it doesn't mean that the person is from Africa, it simply indicates a race in a politically correct yet in a somewhat distorted way--if you're black and your parents are from Jamaica, are you African-American? But then you never hear people refer someone as "Jamaican-American", though you do hear things like Irish-American, and yet not "Italian-American" (politically anyway). I don't understand this hyphenate American thing enough to have an understanding of when does one get a alternate attachment because it's not just purely "continent-American", "country-American", or in the Chinese case, simply "race-American"---or is it? Does being Chinese-American imply that you're from China or does it imply that your parents are of the "Chinese" race? Is Chinese even a race? Wikipedia tells me that there is no real clear definition from a social construction of different Asian races (Indians are Asians too and Korean is not a race.) So is JLin Taiwanese-American or Chinese-American? Even ESPN couldn't figure it out. At the Vday game last night against the Raptors, the commentator said, "he is the first Chinese American...."

Taiwan is neither a race nor a UN recognized country, so Jlin, not having been born in Taiwan, never having visited Taiwan until last year, and not speaking Mandarin well, how can he identify with being "Taiwanese-American"? The easy way out is for him to say he's "Chinese-American" to identify his race as being simply not white or black because, you know, if you claim to be just plainly American, you get white people saying, well of Asian descent, and Chinese people saying, oh you're not proud of your ancestor. On the other hand, if you are anywhere beyond second generation American and white, then you have an easier time not to have to associate yourself with a culture and identity you simply don't identify with. Basically, the point is, if your skin looks anything Asian, to say you're simply "American" is ludicrous in everyone else's eyes.

Interestingly, if you look at all the Canadian-born Asians or whatever other race or country their parents are from, you have no identity problems. All my Canadian-born Chinese friends have no problems saying they're simply Chinese. If anyone I know are asked "what's your background?" It'd be quite simple--- "Chinese" "Korean" "Taiwanese" "Guyanese" "Ukrainian." So put simply, this identity issue is purely an American ideological and assimilation issue, details of which I simply don't have enough interest at the moment to get into.

The second, and probably most important thing I want to point out is the lack of understanding Taiwanese people, and even other Chinese people, seem to have about the American assimilation process. They feel like JLin is Taiwanese or Chinese and they boast about it. Sure you have people everywhere talking about JLin as a phenomenon no matter where you turn your head, but these Taiwanese and Chinese people take it a step further and say that he represents them(!) Let me tell you right here and right now, I've seen his interviews and he does not feel that he's representing anyone, especially not those living on this little island called Taiwan. Every time he gets asked questions like "how does it feel to represent such a large group of people" he skirts around the issue and says things like, well it's my parents who are Taiwanese and I'm just playing ball. The funniest thing is when the Taiwanese politicians want to recruit him to play for the Taiwanese national league--good luck with that. Will Lin's attitude change when he has more interactions with Asian/Chinese/Taiwanese culture and fans? Who knows, but to go around claiming that he's Taiwanese and the "Light of Taiwan" is almost embarrassing. Like one commentator said, you don't see Africans claiming Kobe is the "Light of Africa".

Personally, as someone who is Taiwan-born with a lot of Taiwanese influence as I grew up, my initial reaction to JLin's readiness to shake off his background was a bit of a disappointment. But then as I thought about it, I realized that if he was born and raised in the U.S., and he has never been to Taiwan, and his parents never enforced traditional Asian values on him, why should anyone expect him to be otherwise? Someone said to me that it's his parents' "fault" for the way he is...Why is it a fault to allow your children to live in an environment that's like everyone else's? This idea of having a responsibility to get to know your roots is antiquated and unfair. The more you understand about ANY culture will make you a better person. It is a humanistic responsibility to learn about other cultures, but it is not anyone's responsibility to zone in on a single culture because someone else tells you based on your parents' background and your skin colour that you should get to know something.

Most importantly, JLin's attitude is not disgust towards his background or that he's not proud. He makes very valid points about his background without looking down on anything. Had he went around saying he's Taiwanese, I guarantee you we'd get haters who say JLin is as Taiwanese as Kobe Bryant because he can barely even speak Mandarin and has never been to Taiwan. You can't win. On the other side of the same coin, people who go around saying "I'm proud to be Asian" "Asian Pride" blah blah blah, but know nothing about his or her culture is a lot more appalling to me. Do you even know what you're proud of?

Regardless of where you are born, where your parents are born,where you grew up, where they grew up, the most important thing is about your identity shouldn't be something as superficial as your skin colour and things you can't change, but about being honest with yourself and being a good human being. Be proud of the fact that you have done good things in your life, and not just tout that you're proud of something you can't even control or don't even understand.

Idealistic? Probably. But we gotta start somewhere.